First Drive: Volkswagen XL1
The recently introduced Volkswagen XL1 is a super efficient, two seat plug-in hybrid vehicle. To the extreme.
The VW gets an astounding 261 miles per gallon and has an all electric range of 31 miles (both figures are Euro-based, so expect lower US ratings).
All for an estimated $80,000 to $95,000; but that does include cool Lamborghini-style doors, and no rear windshield to speak of.
Hilton Holloway at Autocar, has already been offered a test drive in the extreme plug-in vehicle, and offers his thoughts on the car’s actual on road performance, and what it is like to ride in one.
“Exceptional on the motorway and agreeably flawed in town. It takes a bit of effort to get into the XL1, the sills are very wide and the seats very low, but once you’re inside, it is very comfortable indeed.
The view ahead is panoramic, while the view directly behind is non-existent because there’s no rear window. The rear-view mirrors have been replaced by what looks like a pair of iPhone screens mounted in the door trims – the XL1 is the first production car in the world to have rear-view cameras in place of conventional mirrors.”]
Mr. Holloway finds that when driving the car in a straight line, the car performs admirably, with enough power to keep up with traffic, despite a 0-60 time of 12.7 seconds.
He also notes the conversion from electric power to the XL1’s tiny .8L (47 hp) motor is flawless; and often. Apparently the VW can detect even the smallest incline, at which point the diesel motor spins up to assist the 20 kWh electric motor. Combined power of the XL1’s two drive modes nets 68 bhp and 103 lb-ft of torque.
As for city driving, he is not as impressed:
“In town, the story is slightly less happy. The ride can be a little brittle and the unassisted steering takes some getting used to. It’s quite hard, say, to whip around a mini-roundabout because the steering weights up considerably. The brakes feel a little dead and are also a little noisy, but that’s a consequence of the lightweight ceramic brake discs.”]
As one would expect looking at the photos of the XL1, both the askew 1+1 seating arrangement and trying to look around the A-pillars are a bit of a chore, often leading to a head-bonk until you get used to them.
Where the reviewer really comes away impressed however is on the highway, where the XL1 shines:
“On the motorway, the XL1 is supreme. Despite its tiny footprint and the heavy rain on the Swiss motorway, the XL1 was rock-steady, completely unruffled by passing lorries. It ran very straight and true, requiring virtually no steering corrections. At a steady 62mph, the XL1 requires just 8bhp to make progress – an indication of the car’s remarkably low rolling and air resistance. It also feels entirely happy at 75mph (XL1 has a top speed of 99 mph) and above, and making brisk overtaking manoeuvres.”
As for real world ratings, we know the 261 mpg figure based on the NEDC system is unattainable. However, despite a mountain range on test drive, the XL1 still managed to return a real-world 188 MPG. Mr. Holland feels that a long highway run could easily net over 200 MPG.
“Overall, the XL1 is quite an unusual experience, but a very satisfying one for any driver who appreciates the brilliant engineering behind the car….Super-early adopters will adore the XL1 – and the chance to hone their driving skills enough to achieve a real-world 200mpg. “
In total, Volkswagen will build 250 copies of the XL1 to start out with (more if demand is there), and VW UK has reportedly already requested 50 left-hand drives be built for themselves.
Volkswagen XL1 Gallery: (double click)